Image Credit: Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Honestly, loads of the audio system I examined sounded eerily comparable to one another. But not the $399 Audioengines. They had a a lot brighter sound and much more readability than all of the others, aside from a considerably costlier KEF pair. The specific pair I attempted additionally got here in a stunning “walnut” enclosure that helped them stand out in a sea of utilitarian black.

The HDP6s ship particularly robust mids that shine relating to vocals and guitars. But they sound fairly balanced throughout all the spectrum. Towering compositions like Nine Inch Nails “The Day the Whole World Went Away” sprung to life and revealed nuances that, frankly, I’ve by no means observed earlier than even on headphones. And Promises, the current album from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, was so enveloping it made me need to throw my present floorstanding audio system within the trash.

While no bookshelf audio system on their very own are going to have the ability to ship the form of room-shaking thump that floorstanding audio system or a subwoofer can ship, the HDP6 carried out admirably with bass-heavy songs. They didn’t have essentially the most low finish of my check models, however drums and bass had been nonetheless punchy and clear.

Buy Audioengine HDP6 at Amazon – $399

For those that need one of the best sound: KEF Q150

Passive Bookshelf Speaker Guide

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

If your primary concern is sound high quality, no matter the rest, try the Q150s. These are the entry-level possibility from famous audiophile model KEF and the one audio system that beat out the Audioengines in any of my blind style exams. They didn’t come out on prime each time, and a few individuals had hassle deciding between the 2, however in the end I feel the KEF’s have the slight edge in pure sound high quality. They had a bit extra quantity on the excessive decrease and better ends of the spectrum. It added a sure sparkle to tracks just like the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t it Be Nice,” whereas Run the Jewels’ “JU$T” hit a bit of bit more durable than on the HDP6s. The distinction will be refined relying on what you’re listening to, however it’s plain in side-by-side testing.

The audio profile of the KEF is just like that of the Audioengines. They’re each a lot brighter and with much more treble and midrange than all the opposite audio system on this roundup. If you’re into listening to classical or jazz on prime quality vinyl, these are going to ship precisely the form of frequency response you’re in search of.

What stops the Q150 from topping this listing is the listing worth. At $600 they’re basically tied for the most costly audio system I examined. (The Polk R100s had been $599, however didn’t make the ultimate minimize.) While the Q150s sounded barely higher than the HDP6s to my ears, they weren’t essentially $200 higher. At the time of this writing, nevertheless, the Q150s had been on sale for $400, making them a compelling choice to the Audioengines.

Buy KEF Q150 at Crunchfield – $400

For the discount hunter: JBL A130

Passive Bookshelf Speaker Guide

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The JBLs had been fairly persistently in the midst of the pack when it got here to listener desire. They’re not as vibrant because the KEFs and the Audioengines, however not fairly as muddy on the lowend because the Polk S15s. If you’re simply in search of an honest set of audio system and don’t sweat over spec sheets, or when you’re primarily listening to streaming music and solely placing on vinyl sometimes, these are an important possibility if you will discover them on sale.

The A130s aren’t a foul deal on the listing worth of $300. But I’ve seen them discounted to as little as $180, at which level they’re a downright steal.

Buy JBL A130 at B&H Photo – $300

For people who want extra bass: ELAC Debut 2.0 DB6.2

Passive Bookshelf Speaker Guide

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Ok, so these audio system break our guidelines a bit however, when you go for the marginally bigger 6.5-inch DB6.2s, as a substitute of the DB5.2s, you get much more thump on the backside finish. The Debuts can’t fairly match the Audioengine or KEFs relating to readability, however you’ll really feel each 808 hit much more. Backxwash’s new album I Lie Here Buried with my Rings and my Dresses raged more durable on the ELACs than it did on the Polks, JBLs and even the KEFs. And they solely price $350, which isn’t unhealthy in any respect.

If you’re primarily listening to digital music and trendy hip hop, you may think about the Debut 2.0 DB6.2s.

Buy ELAC Debut 2.0 DB6.2 at Amazon – $350

For those that need to ignore my recommendation:

Polk S15

If you may’t discover the JBL A130s on sale, and actually need to save as a lot cash as potential, you may snag the Polk S15s. The S15s don’t sound unhealthy, however the JBLs are positively superior. They don’t have as deep of a soundstage as the opposite audio system I examined and the lowend is usually a little undefined. These are most likely higher suited as a part of a house leisure system than a stereo. At an inventory worth of $229 they may appear to be a discount, however I’d save your pennies for a bit longer and spring for one thing higher.

Polk R100

The Polk R100s are respectable sounding audio system. Perhaps barely higher than the JBLs, although with a sound profile nearer to the Polk’s personal S15. The downside is that they’re $600, tying them for the most costly I examined. At half the value these may be a strong possibility, however the $600 KEFs and $400 Audioengines had been ranked larger than the R100s by each tester.

Q Acoustics 3020i

I’ve little question that these are superb audio system: They’re at the moment Wirecutter’s best choice. But I couldn’t check them and subsequently can’t vouch for them.